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Intel 910 800GB and 400GB PCI Express Solid State Drive Review

Intel jumps into the server PCIe flash acceleration market and in a big way. With an amazingly low price point compared to competitors, Intel aims to dominate this market segment. (NASDAQ:INTC)

| PCIe SSDs in IT/Datacenter | Posted: Jun 26, 2012 2:29 pm
TweakTown Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction

 

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Intel, with their E series SSDs, has already led the push for enterprise SSDs with class-defining speed, endurance and reliability. Taking this a step further, Intel is coming into the PCIe flash market with their 910 PCIe series. Intel has been in the storage business for some time now by partially owning NAND production fabs in partnership with industry heavyweight Micron (IMFT) and also selling consumer and enterprise SSDs.

 

Intel has always stated their intention of pushing forward SSD technology as a means to get more performance out of users' computers in both the client and enterprise space. For Intel it hasn't always been about having top-performing SSDs and proprietary controllers, their goal has been to be the leader in bringing about the mass adoption of flash to the customer. Spurring the mass production of NAND by owning the foundries, then placing this flash into the hands of other companies to develop their own flash-based devices, has served Intel well.

 

A key here for Intel is the pricing approach. Current PCIe SSDs can be prohibitively expensive. With Intel coming into this market with a much lower price structure, the other players will be forced to compete. Intel has the heft to throw their weight around and actually force the overall price of these types of SSDs even lower, stimulating wider implementation. Intel also happens to own a stake in one of the largest NAND foundries in partnership with Micron. Selling more NAND on both the front and back end is a great deal for Intel.

 

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There are plenty of existing players in this space that are already deeply entrenched and many more that are waiting in the wings to jump in as well. Currently the PCIe SSD market is white hot and with several of the larger OEMs jumping into the fray, the time is right for this type of storage to gain deeper penetration into the datacenter. The reasons that this approach will succeed are clear. Flash offers exponential increases in performance over its HDD ancestors. These massive performance gains come in much smaller packages that consume less power and space and also generates less heat than HDDs.

 

One method of deploying SSDs into the server rack is by simply using a dedicated appliance that is connected to a server. This approach has its drawbacks, however, as the more devices that you place between the SSD and the server will always bring latency penalties along with it. Bringing the SSDs into the rack also isn't always the best option. The high-powered HBAs, RAID controllers and backplanes that are needed to benefit from the increased speed of the SSDs can involve large upfront capital expenditures when deployed into existing infrastructure.

 

The simplest method of slipping in more power and performance is to have a small form factor PCIe SSD. Physically the Intel 910 takes up little space, with a half-height and half-length footprint. This can be slipped into popular smaller servers easily and places the flash as close to the CPU as possible. Placing the SSD onto the PCIe interface creates a straight path to the CPU, keeping the latency low. Keeping the host system overhead light is another requirement for success. With the integrated OEM LSI SAS drivers, which are preinstalled in every major operating system, it is as simple as plug and play to get the 910 up and running.

 

Ease of use is another important requirement that is addressed with the installation. Many PCIe flash solutions involve intense system management requirements which require users to jump through hoops to get up and running correctly. Those looking to rapidly multiply their performance with an existing solution require a quick and easy solution that involves the least amount of downtime as possible.

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